Whenever I tell anyone I research e-cigarettes, they almost always have a viewpoint about them. Some will be vapers themselves, and those who are will almost without fail sing the praises of the device that finally helped them quit smoking. But often people who’ve never tried e-cigarettes will focus on the potential risks from using them, and in particular whether they’re likely to reintroduce smoking to a young generation who have been steadily shunning it in larger and larger numbers over recent decades. A certain fear is that young people will test out e-cigarettes and that this will be a gateway in to smoking, in addition to fears around the harms from e-cigarettes themselves.
A recent detailed study of over 60,000 UK 11-16 year olds finds that younger people who experiment with e-cigarettes are often those that already smoke cigarettes, as well as then experimentation mostly doesn’t translate to regular use. Not only that, but smoking rates among young people in the UK are still declining. Studies conducted up to now investigating the gateway hypothesis that vaping leads to smoking have tended to consider whether having ever tried an electronic cigarette predicts later smoking. But young adults who experiment with e-cigarettes will probably be different from those that don’t in lots of different ways – maybe they’re just more keen to consider risks, which may also boost the likelihood that they’d try out cigarettes too, regardless of whether they’d used e-cigarettes.
Although you will find a small minority of young adults that do begin to use e-cigarettes without previously as being a smoker, as yet there’s little evidence this then increases the chance of them becoming Health E Cigarette Review. Add to this reports from Public Health England which have concluded e-cigarettes are 95% safer than smoking, and you will think that could be the conclusion of the fear surrounding them.
But e-cigarettes have really divided people health community, with researchers who may have the normal goal of lowering the degrees of smoking and smoking-related harm suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides from the debate. This can be concerning, and partly because in a relative dearth of research on the devices exactly the same findings are used by each side to aid and criticise e-cigarettes. And all this disagreement is playing outside in the media, meaning an unclear picture of what we understand (and don’t know) about e-cigarettes will be portrayed, with vapers feeling persecuted and those that have not attempted to quit mistakenly believing that there’s no point in switching, as e-cigarettes may be just as harmful as smoking.
An unexpected results of this might be that it makes it harder to accomplish the particular research necessary to elucidate longer-term results of e-cigarettes. Which is a thing we’re experiencing while we try to recruit for our current study. Our company is performing a research project funded by CRUK, where we’re collecting saliva samples from smokers, vapers and non-smokers. We’re checking out DNA methylation, a biological marker that influences gene expression. It’s been proven that smokers possess a distinct methylation profile, in comparison to non-smokers, and it’s possible that these modifications in methylation could be linked to the increased risk of harm from smoking – for example cancer risk. Whether or not the methylation changes don’t make the increased risk, they may be a marker of it. We would like to compare the patterns noticed in smokers and non-smokers with the ones from electronic cigarette users, potentially giving us some insight in to the long-term impact of vaping, without needing to watch for time to elapse. Methylation changes happen relatively quickly as compared to the start of chronic illnesses.
Portion of the difficulty using this is the fact we understand that smokers and ex-smokers possess a distinct methylation pattern, and that we don’t want this clouding any pattern from vaping, which suggests we must recruit vapers who’ve never (or certainly only very rarely) smoked. And this is proving challenging for two reasons. Firstly, as borne out from the recent research, it’s unusual for individuals who’ve never smoked cigarettes to adopt up regular vaping. Yes, maybe they’ll experiment, but that doesn’t necessarily result in an e-cigarette habit.
But in addition to that, an unexpected problem has been the unwillingness of some within the vaping community to aid us recruit. And they’re delay because of fears that whatever we discover, the final results will be utilized to paint a negative picture of vaping, and vapers, by people who have an agenda to push. I don’t wish to downplay the extreme helpfulness of lots of kbajyo in the vaping community in assisting us to recruit – thank you, you know who you really are. However I was disheartened to hear that for a few, the misinformation and scaremongering around vaping has reached the point where they’re opting out of the research entirely. And after talking to people directly concerning this, it’s tough to criticize their reasoning. We have also discovered that a number of e-cigarette retailers were immune to putting up posters hoping to recruit people who’d never smoked, since they didn’t want to be seen to be promoting electronic cigarette use in people who’d never smoked, that is again completely understandable and really should be applauded.
So what can we do relating to this? I hope that as more research is conducted, and we get clearer information about e-cigarettes capacity to work as a smoking cessation tool, the disagreement around them will disappear. Until then, I hope that vapers still agree to participate in research so that we can fully explore the potential of these products, in particular those rare “unicorns” who vape but have never smoked, as they could be crucial to helping us understand the impact of vaping, when compared with smoking.